6/28/11. Interview with NY State Assemblyman Sam Hoyt. (NB: the first few minutes of phone interview with Mr. Hoyt are very faint.)
Hoyt has long opposed gambling expansion in WNY. His concerns are driven by economics rather than moral disapproval of gambling. Extensive research has convinced him that, despite the hype and extravagant claims of casino promoters, urban casinos actually have a detrimental economic effect on communities. Studies have demonstrated that, unless 70% of the visitors to a casino come from at least 200 miles away, the casino will absorb much of the disposable income of their surrounding community members—and provide little in return. In effect, they will be picking the pockets of local residents. And in a city rated the 2nd poorest in the nation, this could be disastrous. If a casino is built or expanded, immediate construction jobs will of course be created. But ultimately jobs will be lost as local businesses feel the effects of competition from the casino (see Steven Siegel’s study, discussed on 3/14/11), and the loss of discretionary money by community members.
Hoyt spoke of the recent “charm offensive” by the Seneca Holding Corporation, which has sought to counter the growing negative perception of the effects of casinos on their host communities. They clearly want to establish themselves as good neighbors, providing funds for community projects. But what they are giving back is a drop in the bucket, compared to the profits they make from the community. Hoyt also talked about the “addiction” by state governments, in NY and elsewhere, to gambling revenue from the lottery and other forms of legalized gambling. We need to be aware of the problems this dependency causes, and look for other ways to support our government.